Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Baroness Strange: My Lords, is the Minister aware that many of the widows of men who fell on Normandy beaches would also wish to be included in any commemoration?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, who takes a particular interest and has expertise in these matters. I shall pass back her comments.

Lord Vivian: My Lords, even though I have listened carefully to what the Minister said, is he aware that there is serious concern that the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the successful landings at Normandy is not receiving the appropriate attention and high precedence that it rightly demands? For instance, can the Minister explain what liaison has taken place between Her Majesty's Government and the French Government in relation to organising the proposed service of commemoration in the Bayeaux war cemetery and the parade that is due to take place at Arromanches on 6th June?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I accept that there is some concern, but it is misplaced. This will be an important weekend of commemoration. It is worth remembering that the Normandy landings received large-scale commemorations on both their 40th and 50th anniversaries. A number of significant Second World War anniversaries will fall in the years up to 2005 and it will not be possible financially to mark them all on a large scale. Funding for 60th anniversaries has been focused equally between the significant World War II battles of each of the three services. The battles they have chosen are the Battle of the Atlantic for the Navy, the Battle of El Alamein for the Army and the Battle of Britain for the Royal Air Force. The Ministry of Defence will also be organising a commemoration of the anniversary of the end of the war in 2005. This will provide an opportunity to pay tribute not only to the Normandy veterans but also to those of other campaigns—for example, those who fought so bravely

14 Jul 2003 : Column 627

in the Far East, those who fought so bravely in the campaign through Italy and those whose service was at home.

Baroness Sharples: My Lords, is it just a question of cost in regard to the 60th anniversary? Is there a concern about costs?

Lord Bach: No, my Lords, it is a concern not only about costs but also about finding a due sense of proportion in order to cover these very important anniversaries. The Normandy Veterans Association need have no concerns: the 60th anniversary of D-Day, which is a significant event in itself, will be properly commemorated.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords—

Lord Mowbray and Stourton: My Lords—

Lord Grocott: My Lords, it is the turn of the Liberal Democrat Benches.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, the Minister is not giving full credence to the need for a significant 60th anniversary of D-Day. It was the most incredible operation of the war. It could have wavered on a knife-edge, but it was brought off and was a significant factor in ending the war. Unless we have these commemorations we will be in a situation similar to one the other day where a small child said to his parents when they were talking about this, "Oh, yes, we read something about that in history". It is history. Does the Minister agree that a proper commemoration would help to underline its importance to the young?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I take the noble Lord's point. It was one of the critical battles of the Second World War. My generation learnt about it sometime after. I very much hope that the present generation of children is also learning about it. Of course it would be scandalous not to mark such an anniversary. I am trying to put over the fact that we must have a sense of proportion about these matters and not leave out other anniversaries of great significance.

Lord Mowbray and Stourton: My Lords, as I am a patron of the Normandy Veterans Association—and as we will all be dead after the next such anniversary probably—I should inform the Minister that the Normandy veterans are very confused indeed about what we are going to do next year. A fortnight ago I spent a weekend with all the Scottish members in Dingwall and there was another gathering the fortnight before. Is the Minister aware that we are all very much in a muddle as to what is happening? The more guidance he can give us, the better.

Lord Bach: My Lords, I have tried to be as clear as I possibly can be. I have asked that the letter that has

14 Jul 2003 : Column 628

gone to another place should come to every Member of the House. I hope that once that letter has been read the situation will be clearer.

Ministers' Interests: Disclosure

3.5 p.m.

Lord Goodhart asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they believe that the disclosure of information relating to occasions on which Ministers have reported to their private secretaries potential conflicts of interest under the Ministerial Code of Conduct would be contrary to the public interest.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, under the terms of the ministerial code, Ministers are required, on appointment to each new office, to provide their Permanent Secretary with a full list in writing of all interests which might be thought to give rise to a conflict. The Government believe that personal information provided by Ministers to their Permanent Secretaries which should not otherwise be made public—for example, in the register of Members' interests—should be treated in confidence. However, the full detail of what has been disclosed and how it has been dealt with must be disclosed on request to the ombudsman. The notice issued prevents her making it public but she is able to express publicly any concerns that she has about what has been done. The decision to issue a notice in this case was taken on the grounds that the release of such personal, private information to the public would not be in the public interest.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the Wicks committee which recently proposed that there should be a register of ministerial interests open to the public. Members of Parliament and Members of your Lordships' House have to make disclosure of any interests which might be regarded as conflicting with their parliamentary duties and have to declare further interests during the course of debates, and those declarations are duly recorded in Hansard. What is the public interest in concealing from the public the occasions when Ministers have recorded in writing to their Permanent Secretaries possible conflicts of interest and the action taken by them as a result? Is it not doubly important that Ministers who, unlike ordinary Members of either House, have genuine decision-taking powers should be required to disclose conflicts of interest that might affect their duties as Ministers?

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, paragraph 115 of the ministerial code requires Ministers, on appointment to each new office, to provide their Permanent Secretaries with a full list in writing of their private interests. This is a new requirement, introduced for the first time in July 2001. These declarations can be of an extremely personal nature—for example, providing details of an individual's mortgage arrangements, bank account details and so

14 Jul 2003 : Column 629

on. If there is no conflict, why should that confidential matter be disclosed in relation to the Minister? The ombudsman is able to look at the relationship between the Permanent Secretary and the Minister in that regard, so he or she can check that there has been fair play. All that has happened is that a notice has been served on the ombudsman making it impossible for her to make public what is disclosed to her. That seems to be the appropriate way of ensuring proper disclosure and proper protection for the Minister.

The Earl of Northesk: My Lords, can the noble and learned Lord confirm that the Parliamentary Ombudsman, in her own words, had no choice but to discontinue her investigations into this matter and others because of a lack of co-operation? Where is the Government's much vaunted transparency and accountability given this shoddy state of affairs?

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I can confirm that that is what she said. The effect of the certificates issued was simply to keep confidential private information about Ministers that was not required to be published in any other context—for example, in the register of Members' interests. That material was disclosed to the ombudsman and she was able to make such comment as she thought fit without disclosing the contents of that information.

Baroness Wilcox: My Lords, can the Minister tell us when the Government intend to revise the ministerial code, especially in the wake of informed criticisms from distinguished, recent, past Ministers from his own Benches in another place?

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I refer to the amendments introduced immediately after the last election in 2001. They refer to a heavy requirement on Ministers to provide their Permanent Secretaries with a full list in writing of their private interests. I do not believe that any amendment is required to that.

Earl Russell: My Lords, is it an accurate summary of the Minister's first Answer referring to the ombudsman that it has been disclosed; that it has been disclosed and that it has been disclosed? Is that not the sort of procedure that whets the appetite of any professional journalist?


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page